May 24, 2000
LEE PATTERSON: All right. Hal, we appreciate you spending some time with us this
afternoon. We were talking over here, this has been a special place for you through the
years and some wonderful memories of some victories. Maybe just a couple thoughts about
being here and what you've seen on the golf course and then we'll open it up for
HAL SUTTON: Well, it's always neat to come back here. Jack runs a great tournament
here, and he's been so special to the game. So, to be here at Memorial here seems like the
place to be, doesn't it? As far as the golf course, the golf course is great. Zero poa
annua on the greens, and we just need Mother Nature to cooperate and not rain on us all
the time. But the golf course is great.
Q. Do you think it's a better test, Hal, when it's dry and fast?
HAL SUTTON: Well, I like it better that way, but it favors a big hitter when it's slow
like this. Some of the changes, like the change at the 5th hole really favors a big
hitter. You know there was a way to slide that ball on the green for a guy who doesn't hit
it quite that far the way it was. Now, it's pretty penal the way it is now.
Q. Is the rough about as difficult as you remember?
HAL SUTTON: I don't know that I hit it in the rough out there, so --.
Q. Asking the wrong guy.
HAL SUTTON: I didn't notice it bad. I didn't think it was all that bad around the
Q. How is the fairway, Hal?
HAL SUTTON: The fairways are nice (laughs).
Q. What do you think it's going to be like for the other players when Jack gets
inducted, the ceremony at 3 o'clock, are a lot of guys going to be out there watching?
HAL SUTTON: I would think there probably will be. Jack's been so monumental in the
game, he's deserving of every award that he ever gets, both inside the game and outside
Q. Schedules are pretty tight, Hal, but would you always come back to play this
tournament because of Jack? Would that be the reason you would play this tournament?
HAL SUTTON: Well, I'd say yes, but I've missed the last two or three years because it
didn't work out in the scheduling. But getting here and going around the golf course and
realizing how good the golf course is, you know, I'm sorry I missed those last few years.
Q. A little informal poll we did around our office, I picked you to win. Can you tell
me why I'm going to be proven right here this week, why I'm a brilliant prognosticator?
HAL SUTTON: Well, I appreciate the vote of confidence, there. I like Memorial. I like
Muirfield Village. I think it sets up good for my game. I like faster greens. These greens
get pretty fast. It's a little different golf course now than it's been in the past. Some
of the changes that they have made are different, you know. The greens, at 5, 6, 7 are
different, I haven't seen 15 and 16 but they say 15 is dramatically different, so it is a
little bit different golf course. But it's a great golf course. I mean, drive the ball
well here and then you've got to be precise with your irons. I don't think it's quite as
hard a driving golf course as a lot of other people -- a lot of other places we play, but
you've got to be precise with your irons.
Q. Are you going to go see 15 and 16 this afternoon?
HAL SUTTON: Yeah. Yeah, I'm going to go see them.
Q. Can you recall the first time --?
HAL SUTTON: I was just going to say, there's barely been time for me to do the things
that I need to do. It's been one interview right after another, in other words. But go
Q. Now I feel bad about it?
HAL SUTTON: No, please don't.
Q. Can you recall the first time you were paired with Jack?
HAL SUTTON: Yes. U.S. Open 1981 at Merion.
Q. What was that like?
HAL SUTTON: Terrifying. I played with both he and Hale Irwin, and, you know, I felt
pretty out matched there, so to speak. I felt like a little guy. I was like 7-over after
the first seven holes or something and I walked up to him on the 8th tee and told him,
"Has anyone told you you are very intimidating." He looked at me and kind of
smiled. You couldn't tell if he was being friendly with it or not. He said, "Hal, I
would like to see you play well, so would everybody else, so why don't you relax and play
well." And I ended up playing really well from there in. I missed the cut by one shot
but I think I was like 3-under for the remainder of the holes before the 36-hole cut. I
just dug my hole too deep. But I wished I would have cleared the air with him from the
Q. What quality about Jack stands out the most for you, through all these years, not so
much the golf, but the person?
HAL SUTTON: Well, you know when I think of Jack Nicklaus, I think of his focus. I mean,
he's always looked so focused about what he was doing. I don't think there's ever been a
player that's ever matched his -- you know a lot of people saw his course management. I
saw him always focused on what he was trying to do and he always seemed to make the right
decision, it seemed like and I think it was because he was so in tune with what he was
Q. Having a great year as we all know, how are you playing coming into this tournament?
HAL SUTTON: Well, I've played the last two tournaments I didn't play very well I was
disappointed with the two finishes there. But I feel pretty good right now. My ankle was
bothering me when I took off, and I had rested it this last week, didn't play much this
last week; so I think I will play better this week.
Q. You said that this isn't the most difficult driving course on Tour that you play,
but how does it rate as far as a second shot or up-and-down, missing the green?
HAL SUTTON: Well, I think for after your tee shot, it's one of the top golf courses we
play. And that's what I was trying to say; you've got to be pretty precise with your
irons, and if you're not, it's pretty demanding if you've got to chip and putt around
Q. Very difficult up-and-down?
HAL SUTTON: So from that perspective, I think good iron players tend to fare well here.
Q. How did you spend last week? What were some of the highlights?
HAL SUTTON: Golf-wise you're talking about?
Q. No. You were at home. What did you do?
HAL SUTTON: I rested. I didn't do anything. I played with my kids. We didn't do
anything. I hit balls three days. Pretty boring, actually.
Q. Watson won here 17 years after he won the first time, and it's 14 years for you now.
Is this the best you've played since -- when you had your sort of -- your first life, so
to speak, or your first wind on TOUR? Is this the best you've played since the mid-80s?
HAL SUTTON: Yeah. Without a doubt. I think so.
Q. And why is that at this -- 15, 16 years later?
HAL SUTTON: Well, I don't know. I mean, this has been building. I started playing good
about three years ago, so, you know, there's a lot of reasons why. I mean you're asking me
why I'm playing better now than I did, than I have in a long time. Is that what your
Q. Well, if you're playing the best now that you have since you -- since back then, and
why is that? Guys can elevate their games again -- like Watson did it 17 years after he
won here the first time; you're doing it a decade and a half after you won here the first
time. Why is that? How come the longevity out here?
HAL SUTTON: I don't know why Watson did it. I can't answer that question. I can tell
you about Hal Sutton. I didn't want to end my career on the note that I was ending it on,
five or six years ago. I just saw myself as a better player than that, and I didn't think
that was the way to end that. And I had to rededicate myself to try to do better. So what
I was talking about that I thought was so great about Jack Nicklaus, that's what I try, to
get up every morning, try to focus on the important things that I've got to do. If I'm at
home -- you asked me what I did last week, I'm trying to focus and be the best dad and
husband I can be. When I'm out here, I'm trying to be the best player I can be. And I
think that's what life is all about, and it takes 35 or 40 years old until we really
realize how to do that, you know. It's like, okay, right now, that's what's important.
I've got to take care of this right now, and two hours later, I've got to move over and
take care of that right then and forget what I was doing two hours ago. That's a hard
Q. On that same note, as far as the rededication, can you pinpoint anything particular
in your game, though, as far as maybe your iron play, your driving, your short game that
was brought you back to your form of the mid-80s?
HAL SUTTON: Well, I'm hitting the ball probably equally as good as I did in the early
80s, but my short game is so much better than it's ever been. In a way -- I was looking at
the stats the other day, I've kind of backed off on greens in regulation. I'm hitting a
little over 70 percent of the greens. In a way, it's because my chipping is so much
better, I've been aggressive with my iron play. I've missed a few more greens with being
aggressive with it, whereas, I would probably hit more greens if I wasn't a better chipper
because I wouldn't want to miss the green, if you follow what I'm saying. So, you know,
every time I think I've figured out those stats, I figure out something else, a reasoning
why they are the way they are.
Q. You said that you've refocused and dedicated yourself more, the last four or five
years -- three or four years. Have you practiced longer, have you practiced harder? Have
you spent more time on the range, for example like Vijay?
HAL SUTTON: No. But I make the times that I'm there count. That's the real thing. You
know, a long time ago, a guy told me -- I used to go out and hit 500 or 600 balls, and he
said the real way to practice is to hit 25 balls or 50 balls, or whatever the number is,
but make sure they are all quality shots. And I didn't really know what that meant. I
would think, well, numbers is the way we do this. If I hit it enough and repeat this
action enough, then it will be muscle memory. But now I slow down when I practice. I
didn't hit balls nearly as fast as I used to hit them. Try to figure out: What did I feel
on that last shot; what was I thinking on that last shot; what did we get from that
thought process and that feel. And then try to apply that on the next shot.
Q. At THE PLAYERS Championship in March, you were trying to persuade the media that
Tiger was not invincible, and with what happened last week in Germany, do you think that
will have any effect on the rest of the guys on this Tour, how they view him, that he can
make mistakes, too?
HAL SUTTON: Well, you know, he's a human being, man. I'm telling you, that's all I know
how to say. Let me tell you exactly how I see this from my perspective. I have the
greatest admiration for Tiger Woods. I think it's phenomenal at 24 years old if that's
what's -- is that what he is? It's phenomenal that he can take the focus that I told you
all that I admire so much about Jack Nicklaus, and at 24 years old, he can apply that; he
can take probably -- he's got more talent than anybody else in the game and he can take
that and apply that focus and that talent. I mean, he lives up to his No. 1 billing, but
he's still a human being, and I'm not going to put him any different than that. And I
mean, humans, I mean, I think -- I don't know how many seats there are here and I don't
know how many vacancies there are, the only seats in here that are filled with somebody
that hasn't made a mistake are the vacant ones. (Laughter.) And the rest of them, we have
all made our mistakes, and he'll make some, too, and that's okay. If I were advising Tiger
Woods right now -- and he doesn't need my help, believe you me. I read his comments after
that and I thought they were pretty good comments. "Hey, I just made a mistake; cost
me the tournament." What else can you say? I mean, he doesn't have to say that very
Q. What causes you to think about Payne Stewart, through the course of the year and
what do you think it will be like at the Open?
HAL SUTTON: What causes me to think about Payne Stewart? I mean, every week when I show
up at a golf tournament and I look down to my right or left, wherever he would have been,
you know, I just think, "Well, Payne's locker ought to be there," but it's not.
The fact that he had won the AT&T, you know, at Pebble Beach and the fact that he had
won the U.S. Open in such dramatic fashion last year, and that he's not going to be there
to defend his title is -- it will be pretty hard not to think about Payne Stewart during
the U.S. Open. He had a passion for that U.S. Open just like he had for the Ryder Cup.
Q. This thing with Tiger changing golf balls, the average player, they like just put a
ball down and hit it. Can you talk about some of the nuances, what that can do to a
player? And have you had any equipment nightmares where you've switched from one to
another and just totally fried you? And is he playing with fire by switching back and
HAL SUTTON: Yeah. You know, that can be a very dramatic change in a person's life. That
ball can respond completely different than the ball he's been playing with. And I doubt
very seriously he spent a lot of time in a lot of different elements in a lot of
competitive situations playing that other ball. I know he had not, as a matter of fact.
But I will say that Tiger is a sharp guy. He probably -- he can probably make that
adjustment. Although, there are things that can happen in the heat of the battle, you
know, that that ball responded differently than you thought it should have, and it
aggravates you and you can't get your mind off of that. And you would think, well, if I
had my other ball, that would not have happened and I wouldn't be in the situation that
I'm in right now. Then you start second-guessing yourself. So, yes, I've had similar
circumstances, and yes, it did bite me in the rear end, too. So when you start changing
your equipment, you'd better have put a lot of thought into that.
Q. How long does it take for a player at your level to adjust to another golf ball?
HAL SUTTON: To adjust to another golf ball --.
Q. Because it's a very fine line at your level, isn't it?
HAL SUTTON: He's going from a wound golf ball -- he's going to the Nike ball; right? Is
that what he's going to? I don't know, is that what he's doing? Okay. That's a
multi-covered ball, not a wound ball; so, I mean, it's a different ball. It will react
Q. Is there a period of adjustment?
HAL SUTTON: There will be an adjustment period, I don't care how good a player you are.
There will be a mental adjustment to it, too. I mean, that ball will react differently
than the ball he's been playing. And he may be right on top of it. He may be well aware of
all the different ways that ball responds, you know. I'm sure he thinks he is.
Q. What will it do that a wound ball will not do? Where are you likely to see the
difference in your game?
HAL SUTTON: I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see. I've never played that ball.
I've never hit that ball; so I don't know what it will do. I didn't -- a Strata ball is a
multi-covered ball like that. The difference I've noticed in the ball is -- and I don't
know what any of the properties of the Nike ball so -- I mean, it's a shot in the dark as
to what I think it will do.
Q. Is that a factor of how a player swings, or is that a factor of a wound ball will
always react one way that a multi-covered ball will not?
HAL SUTTON: It's just going to react differently than what the ball that he did play.
It will have different properties than the ball that he played with before, and it will
react differently for him than it would for me. We'll just have to wait and see. I'm sure
he's waiting and seeing, what's it going to do in these situation.
Q. What did you play before Strata?
HAL SUTTON: Max Fly.
Q. Is there any part of your game right now that you maybe don't feel quite as sharp as
it was in the early 80s? Is there any area where you still wish you had from '83 or
HAL SUTTON: No. If anything that I had in the early 80s that at times was good for me
to have, but at other times it cost me tournaments, was I was really aggressive in the
early 80s. And now I'm a bit more -- I pick my spots.
Q. Acknowledging that all of the holes in the Open are important to play well, is there
a stretch of holes at Pebble Beach that you focus on that over the course of four days you
are going to need to play them in a smart fashion in order to be a contender come Sunday,
whether it is the opening stanza or the middle, open holes, the finish, something you are
going to look at?
HAL SUTTON: I'm going to say the same thing everybody else did: 8, 9 and 10 is the
stretch you're going to have to play good. Probably three of the greatest holes in golf,
and they are all back-to-back there, and they are holes that can produce big numbers. They
are holes that you're probably not going to get through there under par. If you are going
to get through there under par, it will be 1-under. You're not going to birdie all of
them. You're probably hoping to get through there even par, you know. And you'd better get
some birdies in those open holes, those opening holes. I just think it's a great test. I
mean, it's like several different golf courses there. Easy, hard, and then the finishing
holes are kind of in between. Dramatic with the ocean there coming in, looking out over
Q. You were talking earlier about Jack Nicklaus and Tiger, and their ability to stay so
focused, which I assume goes hand in hand with their ability to withstand pressure, be it
of winning or expectations or whatever. Is that a discipline you just learn from being out
here? Can you speak from a personal experience; whereas handling the pressure, whether it
be playing with Jack Nicklaus the first time coming on the TOUR, to now?
HAL SUTTON: Well, I think you have to stay in the present, you know. You've got to stay
in this little circle around you. And realizing that you can only do something about what
you're doing and taking -- and not allowing other things to enter into your thinking, you
know, what somebody else is doing or anything else, and you just stay completely in -- in
the present with what you're doing, not with what anybody else is doing. And that's what I
see them do so well. I mean, you know, very seldom do you see Tiger Woods adjust his game
for what somebody else is doing. I mean, we can't hardly get him in that position. We're
having to adjust our game based on what he's doing.
Q. Is that something you knew right off the bat, or again, is that just something
you've sort of learned or you've learned to do better?
HAL SUTTON: I think it's learned. I don't think it's something that people just
automatically have. You know, I think, you know, you look back through history of golf,
you know and there's those guys that you think about, like Ben Hogan that had those steely
eyes -- I heard Ken Venturi refer to it on TV, that look in his eyes. To me what he's
describing in that look is he's looking through things. It's like nothing else exists
except what he's doing. I mean, I can remember playing with Jack Nicklaus when he was
playing really good. You know, it was like he looked right at you, but you weren't even
there. And that told me that his mind was on what he was doing. I mean, not on what he was
Q. As a young player, Hal, when you were touted as the heir-apparent to Nicklaus, what
kind of pressure did that place on you, and what went through your mind as a young golfer
when that mantle is placed on your shoulders?
HAL SUTTON: Well, he was bigger than life to me. He was my idol. So when they are
placing the expectations on you that you are going to be able to do some of the same
things that he did, when I've been telling myself all along that this guy has -- you know,
he's done things that are impossible to do. I mean, he is my -- he is what I aspire to be,
you know. All of the sudden when people start talking to you like that, it's like,
"Wait a minute, I don't know if I'm ready for this or not." This is what I've
idolized all of my life, not expected to do.
Q. You talked about that you have to try to get birdies on opening holes at Pebble.
Given that, what do you think of what they have done to the 2nd hole as a long par 4?
HAL SUTTON: Well, I've never taken a par 5 and turned it into a par 4 because I've
never seen one of them that the green was built to be a par 4. The green was always built
to be a par 5. And I just -- I'm not fond of that. You know, at the end of the day, all
we're going to do is add up our score; so it's not really going to make any difference. I
mean, I could build a case for it making a difference, but that's part of what I'm talking
about, about staying focused, you know. Instead of getting caught up in the fact that now
we're having to play this stinking hole as a par 4 that's not really built to be a par 4.
All we're really going to do is add up our score at the end of the day. That's what we're
going to do, sign off on our card at the end of the day, and that's what's going to count.
Q. I've heard you talk about the deep, dark hole that you were in, I think those were
the words that you used. What were a couple aspects or some of the key aspects that
allowed you to climb out of it?
HAL SUTTON: Well, I touched on it a little bit ago, that I just didn't see my career
ending there. I just didn't want to be there. You know what, it's funny. I think back
about that and I just never ever thought I wouldn't get out of that. It actually looks
worse to me now looking back on it than with me being in it. Because when you're in a
situation like that, you're trying to make the best out of it all the time, and if I'd
have really told myself how bad it was, I probably would have thought my -- it was
insurmountable, that I could not get out of it. So it looks a lot worse from this
perspective than it did from being in it.
Q. Every U.S. Open there's a special quality about it, but there's a lot being made
about this one, going to Pebble Beach and it's 2000. Do the players look -- do you get
caught up in that aspect about this being a special U.S. Open?
HAL SUTTON: I don't. It's just going to be another U.S. Open to me. And to me, U.S.
Opens are all about playing great golf courses in tough conditions, you know. And that's
what I try to prepare myself for.
Q. When you talked about the three back-to-back, tough holes, if the wind at Pebble --
if the wind is blowing hard, would you throw 7 into that mix, too?
HAL SUTTON: Yeah. Yeah, I would. 7 is -- it's such a feel hole, first of all. If
there's no wind blowing at all, it's still a feel hole, because you're hitting downhill
with a half-shot, practically. And then when the wind starts blowing hard, then you're
pulling a lot of club for a little itty-bitty hole downhill. So it's all feel.
Q. Not everybody plays that way, I suppose?
HAL SUTTON: Not everybody plays that way. A lot of people play exactly by the yardage.
They know exactly how far to hit this club, and that's what makes that hole hard.
Q. What's the longest club you've ever hit there; do you know?
HAL SUTTON: 5-iron. I mean, it wasn't one of those that I'm just all-out killing, but
one of these where I took it about shoulder high and took it about shoulder high over
here, and trying to get it to go that way (forward), you know. I knew that wind was doing
this with it (pushing forward) you know.
Q. Is it hard to pull a trigger on a 5-iron from 106 yards?
HAL SUTTON: 106 yards straight downhill, yeah, it is. Almost putt it down the hill, you
Q. Where did you hit it?
HAL SUTTON: Actually, I think knocked it just over the back, left edge that day. You
know, it was so hard not to pull it a little bit, too, when you hit that shot, because,
you know you just feels like there's a little room over to the left over there (laughs).
Q. You went back to the British Open last year for the first time in a while. Was it
important for you to reacquaint yourself with golf over there and get comfortable playing
HAL SUTTON: Well, it was exactly like I remembered it being: Really difficult. I
thought that was one of the hardest golf courses I've ever seen last year. I remember
calling home after I played the first practice round on it and I said, "320 might win
this event." I mean, you walk down the 6th hole and the second shot area there, it's
about eight yards wide down there, you know. Anyway.
Q. (Inaudible.) How was St. Andrews when you played it back then?
HAL SUTTON: I didn't play very well that year, I remember that. I mean, it's a great
test. A lot of history there. I'm looking forward to going over for the tournament.
Q. Have you any highlights from your -- in your career at St. Andrews?
HAL SUTTON: No. Actually I played very poorly when I was there last. Not because of the
golf course. It's just that I wasn't playing very well when I went over there.
Q. When was the last time you were there?
HAL SUTTON: It might have been then. I don't remember having been back since then.
End of FastScripts